On this Election Day, I pause to consider Representative Ralph Hall, the man from Fate, Texas. Not long after he is re-elected -- and he will be re-elected -- he will turn 90.
Why am I so confident? Because Hall is, if nothing else, a survivor after more than 30 years spent inside the cage of howler monkeys that is the U.S. House of Representatives. When the Blue Dog Democrat saw his district gerrymandered into an unadulterated red in 2004, he switched parties. When the tea-party wave crashed over the country in 2010, the newly minted Republican, who is about as establishment as they come, hung on. And when Houston construction magnate Leo Linbeck III bankrolled a $167,000 ad campaign against Hall during the primary, according to numbers from the Center for Responsive Politics, he failed to bump him from the GOP ticket.
Lest you question his vivacity, Hall dove from an airplane in May. He hadn't done that since '44, when he trained as a pilot during World War II. "I knew a jump wouldn't hurt me. It looked like heaven coming down. You land running -- I'm in good shape," he told a McClatchy reporter.
And late last month, wearing a Texas-flag shirt, a black felt hat and a wry grin, he waved to the attendees at the Fannin County GOP picnic from the back of an elephant. I like to imagine him flicking encased pennies at the crowd that read "Ralph Hall for Congress." He's known to dole them out during campaign stops.
No, Ralph Hall isn't finished. Not by a long shot. Because there's one thing Leo Linbeck III didn't account for. He wanted to create fractures in Congress' ossified body. But as much as America says it abhors "The Establishment" and "career politicians," we just can't stop electing them. And as much as we also profess an abiding hatred for debt and government, boy do we love maintained roads, safe air travel, federal disaster assistance and the representatives who bring home the bacon.
So here's to Ralph Hall, and at least two more years of cognitive dissonance.
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